Archive for August, 2021

FF: What’s Behind the Cover?

August 27, 2021
A Rare Mei-Ling Sighting

Mei-Ling wonders if you can guess what she’s been reading on my Kindle.  Cover art below…

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.  The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.  And it’s also a great place to tell me what you’re reading. 

Recently Completed:

This Broken World by Charles E. Gannon.  Advanced Review Copy.  Due for November release.  Epic Fantasy.  I’ve been waiting to read this book for decades, and it didn’t disappoint.  In fact, I blurbed it, and I only do that when I honestly like something about a book.

Here’s what I said: “A vibrant new direction for Gannon, an epic fantasy built around the sort of complex, multi-layered intrigues that inform his SF, while featuring a more eclectic cast of characters, and delving into the mysteries of a marvel-filled world at odds with its own internal logic.  This new series is certain to add to Gannon’s legion of fans.” 

And, why not?  Here’s the cover art Mei-Ling wouldn’t let me show lest it distract from you admiring her.

In Progress:

Moonheart by Charles de Lint.  Audiobook.  I’ve read this in print, but couldn’t resist the temptation to try as audio.  It’s working out fairly well.

The White Goddess by Robert Graves.  There’s something of the same enthusiasm shown by conspiracy theorists in this that keeps me reading, even though the underlying premises have about as much stability as the foundations of the Tower of Babel.

Also:

Archeology magazine.  I’m finally up to the current issue.

Surreal Real

August 25, 2021
Real Fish

Social media is notorious for reducing everything to lists and absolutisms.  You’ve probably noticed I don’t tend to contribute to lists of “bests” or “worsts” or “favorites.”  Nothing against them, but basically, this is not how my brain works.

Even when I was small, I was called out for not seeing the world according to the prescribed patterns.  For me the sky wasn’t “up there,” but something I knew came all the way down to the horizon.  Water wasn’t clear or blue, it could be green or, especially at sunset, red and purple.

Maybe this is why I gravitated first to mythology and folklore, then to SF/F.

Take the picture of the fish I’ve included above.  That’s as “real” a view of a fish as any, but many people would immediately see it as “out of focus” or “blurred.”  But living water is rarely still, and so I could validly argue that its more real, not less, to see fish in less than crisp focus.

I guess my reality is accepting the surreality is part of reality.

That dogs and cats can get along just fine, and if they fight like cats and dogs, there’s probably a good reason.

That the cat sleeping on my pillow is really there, not standoffish, aloof, uncaring, waiting upon servants, as I am repeatedly told cats “are.”

That a “dry heat” is still darned hot when temperatures reach above 100.

All that and more…  I like my surreal reality.

FF: Charleses

August 20, 2021
Persephone and a Much Read Copy of Moonheart

This week, I’m reading two books by authors with the first name of Charles.  Of course, I’ve known one of them as “Chuck” for decades, and I had to be told by the other that I didn’t need to call him “Mr. de Lint.” Ah, memory…

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.  The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.  And it’s also a great place to tell me what you’re reading. 

Recently Completed:

Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers.  A semi-sequel to The Stress of Her Regard, focusing on the son of characters from the previous novel and his interactions with Christina, Dante Gabriel, and others of the talented Rossetti clan.  I had no idea until I read this that John Polidori was their uncle.  Truth is phenomenally weirder than fiction.  When Tim Powers gives his twist to the material, I end up believing his “secret history.”

Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor.  Audiobook.  Hamlet meets The Incredible Hulk in the person of a twelve-year-old boy whose police chief father is murdered.  If you stick with it, the final chapters are probably the best part.

In Progress:

This Broken World by Charles E. Gannon.  Advanced Review Copy.  Due for November release.  Epic Fantasy.  I’ve been waiting to read this book for decades.  Literally.  I’ve known Chuck since I was an undergrad and he was a newly graduated friend-of-a-friend.

Moonheart by Charles de Lint.  Audiobook.  I’ve read this in print, but couldn’t resist the temptation to try as audio.  I’ll let you know if it works.

Also:

Catching up with Vogue.  Not only the magazine’s staff, but a number of the advertisers are really working to expand the definition of “beauty.”  Particularly great are an on-going campaign by Oil of Olay and a new one by Dick’s Sporting Goods. I am reminded of a sign I saw a few weeks ago and loved: Fashion is what you buy.  Style is how you wear it.

Official Title, Reading, Panel

August 18, 2021
Datura By Daylight

Amazing all that can happen in a week…

Star Kingdom novel four now has an official title: A New Clan.  The Star Kingdom series are collaborations between me and David Weber.  They are Honorverse prequels, set in those days of yore when the planet Sphinx was newly being colonized, and a young human named Stephanie Harrington makes first contact with the indigenous treecats.

David Weber wrote the first novel, A Beautiful Friendship, solo, although I did contribute from off-stage, as friends are wont to do.  The next two novels are Fire Season and Treecat Wars.  Unlike the mainline Honorverse novels, these are not military SF, but instead take a look at the developing Star Kingdom from the point of view of a very intelligent young woman and her treecat companion.  The shift in emphasis allows for a much more in-depth look at human/treecat relations from the point of view of the treecats.

A New Clan does not have a scheduled release date, but I’ll let you know when it does.

This coming weekend, I’ll be participating in Bubonicon, which is, once again, going to be virtual.  I have pre-recorded a reading from my forthcoming release, Library of the Sapphire Wind (February 2022) and am scheduled to be on the live panel “Draw A Card: Pump Up Your Plot with Tarot.”

Bubonicon is not charging this year, but is accepting donation to help with their expenses.  Any extra will doubtless be donated to a local charity, as is the convention’s usual custom.  The schedule is available here, so take a look and see what might amuse you! See the link here for more information.

Otherwise, we’ve had a tiny bit more rain.  The photo of the datura was taken on a cloudy morning, before the flowers had closed.  As you may know, they bloom at dusk and shut when daylight gets strong.

At least for now, we’re getting less smoke from the numerous wildfires that are plaguing the west. However, it may be swirling back around, and that won’t be fun.

Keep a good thought for us!

FF: Before Dreaming

August 13, 2021
Coco Admires Momin Physique

I haven’t quite finished Hide Me Among the Graves because not only is it quite long, I can’t read it before bedtime.  Not scary in a slasher sense, but in the fact that many of the characters are essentially addicts, and so their own worst enemies.  I need something less fraught before bed or I have nightmares!

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.  The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.  And it’s also a great place to tell me what you’re reading. 

Recently Completed:

The Moomins and the Great Flood by Tove Jansson.  Translated by David McDuff.  The first Moomin book.  You can see her feeling her way into the characters.  This edition contains an introduction by the author, talking about how she began the story in 1939 when “it felt completely pointless to try to create pictures” and how, instead, “I suddenly felt an urge to write down something that was to begin with ‘Once upon a time.’”  Her take on that trope was remains unique…

Moominsummer Madness by Tove Jansson.  Translated by Thomas Warburton.  Much later in the series.  Oddly enough, once again, a flood is what forces the Moomins out of their cozy lives.

In Progress:

Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers.  A semi-sequel to The Stress of Her Regard, focusing on the son of characters from the previous novel and his interactions with Christina, Dante Gabriel, and others of the talented Rossetti clan.  I had no idea until I read this that John Polidori was their uncle.  Truth is phenomenally weirder than fiction.  Then, when Tim Powers gives his twist to the material, I end up believing his “secret history.”

Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor.  Audiobook.  Hamlet meets The Incredible Hulk in the person of a twelve year-old boy whose police chief father is murdered.

Also:

A few scattered magazine articles.

Cuteness! News! Answers!

August 11, 2021
Tiny Denizen

The lovely amphibian who graces today’s WW is a Chiricahua Desert Spadefoot toad.  He (courtesy pronoun; I refuse to call animals “it”) resides on the east side of our yard, beneath the desert willow, beneath the Tuscan Blue rosemary.  He is about two inches from nose to butt, if that!  This picture was taken by Jim one evening as we did our usual evening yard ramble by flashlight…

Said rambles have been sporadic of late, as smoke from area wildfires is making it unwise for me to take my breathing apparatus outside, but I hope to resume soon.

By the way, some folks clearly have the impression I live in the country and/or have a lot of land.  Neither is true.  However, cool natural things can be found, even in a relatively small area.  It’s just a matter of looking…  Even if you live in an apartment, there are possibilities. 

Oh…  Wait.  Some of you read this hoping for news relating to my writing life.  This week, I actually have a bit.  First, my new novels, Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge, are now officially scheduled for release: February 2022 and April 2022. 

I’m working on new e-book versions of Artemis Awakening and Artemis Invaded.  No set release date but, as always when I do a new e-book, there will be extra material related to some aspect of the books.

Star Kingdom book four, a new Stephanie Harrington adventure with David Weber, is turned in.  I’ll let you know when I have a release date and official title.  We haven’t yet started book five, but it’s under contract.  Rumor also has it that David Weber will be turning his attention to the long-awaited next Honorverse short story anthology.  This will include an all-new story featuring Stephanie and Karl on the planet Gryphon titled, “Deception on Gryphon.”

So…  We’ve had cuteness and news.  What about answers?

Last week I asked how my WW, which was largely about rain harvesting, could be also about writing.  There were many excellent answers, and I completely agree with them.  However, I was thinking about world-building.

Very many times when I read an SF/F novel the world-building is macro that doesn’t extend into the micro, unless that micro is a plot element.  However, it’s the little things that make a place “real”—or so I think…  Same applies to characters, not just settings.  Like the tiny toad, the little things count.

Just a passing fancy as I wander off to my labors!

FF: Elsewheres

August 6, 2021
Roary Refuses to Hide

This week, all my reading material is set in places far away, whether in time or in space or in imagination. 

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.  The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.  And it’s also a great place to tell me what you’re reading. 

Recently Completed:

The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers.  The “secret history’ in this novel comes from a combination of events in the lives of several of the most prominent figures in English literature, including Byron, Shelley, Keats, and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.  Read this, and you’ll never read their poetry and fiction quite the same way…

Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor.  Audiobook.  Uses some of the same themes as Akata Witch (the outcast who makes a virtue of her difference), but in a very different manner.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor.  Audiobook.  Again, similar themes and plot elements: outcast finds a high-tech artifact, but uses it (and other super abilities) for kind reasons, even if given ample reason for using it otherwise.

A Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson. Translated by Elizabeth Portch.  Realizing I got these out of order, I went backwards.

The Exploits of Moominpappa by Tove Jansson.  Translated by Thomas Warburton.  I don’t like Moominpapa nearly as much as Moomintroll (his son).  He has traits of ego and self-aggrandizement that make him much less appealing.

In Progress:

Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers.  A semi-sequel to The Stress of Her Regard, focusing on the son of characters from the previous novel and his interactions with Christina, Dante Gabriel, and others of the talented Rossetti clan.  I had no idea until I read this that John Polidori was their uncle.  Truth is phenomenally weirder than fiction.  Then, when Tim Powers gives his twist to the material, I end up believing his “secret history.”

The Moomins and the Great Flood by Tove Jansson.  Translated by David McDuff.

Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor. Audiobook. Just started.

Also:

As part of getting new e-book versions of my backlist up, I have finished re-reading Artemis Awakening and am now immersed in Artemis Invaded

Monsoons!

August 4, 2021
Drenched Sunfower

When the rainfall started last Saturday, Jim and I were sitting down to dinner (stir fry, made largely with zucchini, peppers, and eggplant from our garden).  We traded guarded looks, but said nothing, just in case we might scare the rain away.

Then the rainfall picked up, accompanied by thunder and lightning.  We slid the porch door closed, and went on with our meal.  As I was finishing off my second helping, I slid open the porch door long enough to confirm that the rain was easing off.  So was the electrical storm.

I pushed my plate back, got my umbrella (which dates back to when I still lived in Virginia, over twenty-five years ago; umbrellas don’t get worn out very fast here), and went out to check.  All of the thirty-gallon trash barrels under the downspouts, bone dry an hour before, were overflowing.  I got a bucket, and started transferring water from barrel under the most wildly gushing downspout (the one on the northeast side), and started shifting it to the overflow containers.

Once I adjusted to the temperature and damp, I put the umbrella aside so I could work faster.  Who cared if I got wet?  This was rain!

I was into my rhythm—scoop, turn, dump—when Jim came out and got to work lowering the level of the southeast barrel.  By then, I’d more or less caught up with the torrent from the downspout and, bucket in hand, darted around to the west side of the house.

Once I’d filled the overflow container on that side, I started running buckets of water to our younger trees.  Yes.  It was still raining, but I knew that even just a few inches below the surface our sandy soil would be dry.  Best to replenish the area.

Eventually, we’d filled every container we could spare, storing roughly 200 gallons of rainwater. Then, dripping wet and ridiculously pleased, we came inside.  Later, when the rain had stopped, Jim went out and checked the rain gauge: six-tenths of an inch of rain.

Six-tenths of an inch of rain may not sound very exciting to you, but where I live, that’s a major event.  This was by far the most we’ve had at one time this year.  The runner up was back in late June when, for four very odd days, we apparently traded climates with the Pacific Northwest.  Then our cumulative rainfall for four days was a quarter of an inch.

As I type this, it’s drizzling again.  I find myself wondering if I can find a spare bucket somewhere…  Maybe it’s time to go get rained on again.

I think I will…  And I’ll leave you with a question.  How is this also about an aspect of the craft of writing?